Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs Need Help Not Handcuffs​

pregnant womanLet's face it: pregnancy is a confusing nine months (or is it 10?). You can't sleep. You don't know what you can and can't eat. But by now, every woman in America should know that you can't use drugs while pregnant.

Right? This should be obvious?

So it may sound like good news that the state of Tennessee has just come out to officially criminalize drug use during pregnancy. Good moms don't use drugs, so why not send them to prison? Well, here's the problem.


The broadly written law calls for women to be charged with assault if they have a pregnancy complication after using illegal drugs. As it's written, the law would even punish moms who suffer a complication that wasn't related to their drug use.

Still not seeing the problem? Consider this ... not everyone plans to get pregnant. In fact, of the 6.6 million pregnancies in America every year, more than half (51 percent) are unplanned. That's 3.4 million, folks.

So not everyone gets a chance to clean up their act -- be it using drugs, smoking cigarettes, or just enjoying a glass of wine now and again -- before they pee on a stick and say, "Uh oh!"

Now, not all 3.4 million of those women who didn't plan to get pregnant but end up that way are on drugs. But plenty are. In Tennessee alone, there were 921 drug-dependent births in 2013, which is part of the reason this new law has come about. 

So again, why not criminalize doing drugs while pregnant?

Simple: when you tell someone you're going to throw them in jail for doing something, you make it darn near impossible to get help. If it's on record that she's been using drugs, and she suffers a complication -- any complication -- she's just opened herself up to charges of assault. On the other hand, if we encourage women to get some help, we help their babies too.

It only stands to reason that the less a baby is exposed to drugs, the less chance they have of the drugs affecting development.

If we want to really change things for babies in America, we need to make it easier for women to have a healthy pregnancy, not harder! 

What do you make of this legislation? What would be a better way to help these moms?


Image via Miki Yoshihito/Flickr

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